Experts weigh in on how to calculate your dogs caloric needs per day to make sure you're feeding your pet the right amount.
dog with three plates of differing amounts of food
Credit: Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

Knowing the amount of calories your pooch needs can help you keep them on track with their weight. If you feed your dog too many calories it can result in unhealthy weight gain and if you feed your dog too few calories, that can result in an underweight dog with potential nutrient deficiencies and health issues. Below you'll find out how to calculate your dog's calorie needs (and if you don't want to whip out your calculator, there's an easy chart that can give you a good estimate).

How Many Calories Should a Dog Eat in a Day?

The short answer is, it varies for every dog based on a lot of different attributes.

"A dog's daily calorie requirements depend on a variety of factors including body condition, breed, activity level, life stage, environment, and health status," explains Darcia Kostiuk, DVM, senior veterinarian for ORIJEN and ACANA pet food.

According to the Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center, veterinary professionals use a metric called Resting Energy Requirements (RER), which are the energy requirements a pet needs for bodily functions at rest like breathing and digestion, to help determine a dog's caloric needs. However, it can be difficult to calculate the exact number as there are variations in metabolic rates in individual dogs.

Your own pup's veterinarian should be able to give you a good idea of what your individual dog's ideal body condition should be and how many calories per day will help Fido reach that goal.

How to Calculate How Many Calories Your Dog Should Eat by Size

According to the Association for Pet Obesity and Prevention, you can use this formula to calculate a dog's caloric needs.

  • Dogs calorie needs per day = (Dog's weight in kilograms x 30) + 70

Every pound of weight is equivalent to 0.45 kilograms. So for example, a 60-pound (27.2-kilogram) dog would need this calculation:

  • (27.2 x 30) + 70 = 886 calories needed per day.

If you don't want to do the calculations, this handy chart gives you an estimate on the number of calories your dog needs based on weight.

pet calorie chart
Credit: Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong / Jody Tramontina

However, Kostiuk explains that "each pet is unique; it is important to work with a trusted veterinarian to determine how much to feed your dog."

7 Tips to Ensure Your Dog Is Getting the Right Amount of Calories From Their Food

To help make sure your pooch is getting the amount of calories from their food, here are some recommendations from Kostiuk and other veterinary resources to consider:

  1. Speak to a trusted veterinarian about their ideal body condition and determine the target healthy weight for your pet.
  2. Monitor your dog's behavior and exercise habits and stay up-to-date on your pet's overall health to determine when you may need to adjust to your dog's nutritional requirements.
  3. Observe their body condition over time. If there are any concerning changes, speak to your veterinarian about it.
  4. Use the feeding chart on complete and balanced dog foods as a general guide and adjust according to the needs of your pet.
  5. Make sure the largest portion of your pup's calories is coming from energy-dense meals that include protein, fats, and carbohydrates and not from treats. Feeding an excess amount of treats or extra oils/fats also contributes to their daily caloric consumption, and too many treats can lead to obesity.
  6. Select a diet that contains less than 20 percent starchy carbs. Dogs need more focus on lean protein and healthy fats for higher energy density. Fat has twice the energy of protein and carbohydrates.
  7. Feed your dog based on their own individual needs. A puppy will require more calories than a senior dog, and a 5-pound Chihuahua will need far fewer calories per day than a 120-pound Great Dane. If a dog doesn't spend a lot of time exercising, you don't want to overfeed for that lifestyle as they will become overweight. On the flip side, if your dog is your daily running companion, make sure you're feeding them enough to keep up their energy for an active lifestyle.